|Well, airlines do allow one Carry On|
We left LAX on Friday afternoon, and I knew the weekend would be good when one of the small airport bars offered cans of beer to go, including one I’ve never heard of: The GOLDEN ROAD CARRY ON, a citrus ale that’s extremely heavy on the citrus, but I couldn’t have been more ecstatic in my nerdiness whilst taking this aboard our Southwest flight to El Paso. In spite of LAX being a major international hub, and Dallas being a major international hub, we were inexplicably booked with a stopover in El Paso. Sadly, the El Paso airport completely lacked any local flavor on the suds front, not even a freakin’ Lone Star beer, not to mention there was no decent food. The connecting flight to Dallas’ Love Field could not have come soon enough.
First thing I noticed, everyone actually does say “Y’all”.
|"But Officer, I wasn't laughing.."|
“I’d like to welcome y’all to Dallas.”
“Y’all have a nice evening.”
We “all” rolled through the airport, amused by the police attempting to look authoritative on their comical Segways, and hopped into Jesse & Katerina’s baller black luxury rental vehicle. Thanks to Katerina’s savvy Groupon skills, we were hooked up in a swanky hotel by The Galleria in North Dallas. Like really swanky. Like scumbags-like-us-clearly-don’t-belong-here swanky. You’d think after playing music for 30 years this would be second nature, but it’s not. I’ve spent my touring life sleeping on filthy floors at the worst house on the block in the worst part of town. I’m still humbled at moments like this, but I wasn’t about to complain. The cherry on top was the lobby bar loaded with six Texas beers on tap. While rooms were being sorted out, I lounged in the lobby on a white leather chair sipping a toothsome LOST GOLD IPA from Austin’s REAL ALE BREWING. I shouldn’t get used to this. But I easily could.
|Like a glowing Xanadu it appears|
After checking in, we all piled into the pimpmobile and headed to the Lower Greenville neighborhood to check out some local grindcore bands playing at Taqueria Chichen Itza, which is exactly what it sounds like: A one-room taqueria, not much larger than the actual tortillas they’re serving. What they didn’t serve was alcohol, but this venue is BYOB-friendly, so we headed to the corner store a half block away. However, in the opposite direction of the liquor store there was a glowing neon row of bars, with the closest building touting itself as a Bottle Shop. Whaaaa? Sure enough, I had stumbled upon World Beer Company, a wall to wall bottle shop with 22 unique taps. The good news is they were open. The bad news is it was last call. Matt Domino was right behind me and we snuck in for last call for a couple high-quality, high-octane pints…. the MARTIN HOUSE BREWING PRETZEL STOUT and the (512) BREWING COMPANY PECAN PORTER, a beer highly recommended to me by Harley The Vendome Cicerone back home. The vibe was perfect, both beers were excellent, but they were closing up shop and we had no choice but to leave. What’s the old adage… “It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” Oh, World Beer Co., parting is such sweet sorrow.
Next stop was across the street at the mildly douchey Libertine Bar, a spot with a multitude of Texas taps posted, but half of which were unavailable when I ordered them. Joe Denunzio got the last of the OMMEGANG BELGIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY IPA and I got a taste before I went inside and waited 15 minutes for pours of the ROGNESS BREWING BEARDY GUARD and COMMUNITY BEER COMPANY ESB. We loitered outside with our pints, but tensions rose as Domino got nasty looks from a blonde sitting across from us… nasty because she made the decision to hit the town commando… meaning no underpants, just a short skirt, and her wizard sleeve flapping in the breeze. And yet it was everyone else’s fault for actually noticing she was sans panties. Look lady, y’all should wear some skivvies next time!
|Gettin' a taste of Dallas|
We headed back to the taqueria to check out some grinding noise from Creator/Destroyer, a full-throttle aural assault featuring Fuentes in the line up, as well as my old pal Dorian Rainwater. I tried ordering food, but the cook told me, “We’re out of all meats, except ham.” Who’s ever heard of a ham taco? And the nearby stores stopped selling beer at midnight. Good to know, expect for the fact that it’s now 1am. I hit the row of bars again, and fought a crowd of frat folks noisier than Creator/Destroyer to get a pint of the well-worth-it & skunky ODELL MYRCENARY IPA. 1:30am, last stop and last call at Greenville Ave Pizza Company for a couple scrumptious slices and a forgettable pint of BRECKENRIDGE AGAVE WHEAT ALE.
Our whole team was tipsy, and headed back in the pimp ride, all the while Bobby K. fought off carsickness (which we were convinced is more of a self-induced phobia) from the far back seat.
|We must drink by Any Means Necessary|
I awoke Saturday morning, fresh as a daisy. Or at least as fresh as a daisy that’s been mercilessly trampled multiple times. Today’s agenda was to meet up with my old friend Chris Thackaberry, a UK native I first met in London back in 1999 through our shared affinity of fast hardcore music, and who strangely enough now resides in Wylie, TX. Thacka has adopted the Texas lifestyle with a big T, driving one of the most massive white trucks in the state. The only thing missing was a gun rack. Unlike the wahoo persona of his vehicle, Thackaberry is the most warm-hearted, friendly, and generous individuals you would ever hope to meet. He picked me up and shuttled me to Deep Ellum Brewing to check out their taps during their short window of Noon-3pm pouring. As we weaved through this endlessly sprawling metropolis, he enlightened me to the oddball state liquor laws. We discussed Dry counties (he lives in one, no liquor is sold whatsoever), Damp counties (beer and wine only), and Wet counties (everything’s for sale, but at specific hours). Apparently, most breweries are not allowed to sell taps directly to the public, so they get around this by selling “brewery tours” and offering a “free” tasting at the end of the tour. Sure enough, we rolled up to a massive crowd at DEEP ELLUM BREWING. With only a short three hour window, attendees need to get their drink on in a timely manner. There was a live band, a food truck, and bustling throngs that were nearly shoulder to shoulder. No tasters, no flights. The only option was to purchase a pint glass which came with three wooden nickel drink tokens. So, this was their “work around”, to avoid selling beer directly to the public… we’re trading tokens for each pour, not exchanging money. Come to think of it, I had a similar experience at Jester King Brewing last summer. It was all making sense.
|Deep in the heart of Ellum|
I tried everything they had on tap, which wasn’t much… the DOUBLE BROWN STOUT, DALLAS BLONDE, DEEP ELLUM IPA, and their PALE ALE. All were decent, the IPA being the best of the four. No specialty taps. And no flagship DREAM CRUSHER DOUBLE IPA, thus my dreams were indeed trod upon.
My old pal Jack Barfield made the roadtrip up from Austin and met us at the brewery. We drank, listened to the mediocre cover band in the courtyard, and soaked up the unseasonably mild weather. I dreaded Dallas this time of year, expecting a thoroughly humid, soggy, and boiling hot weekend of which Texas is infamous for. Instead we were treated to a rare stretch of overcast 70s weather which was nicer than what I left behind in California. It was 2pm and I hadn’t eaten a thing. My only option for my second meal, for the second time: Pizza.
|Winning the Four Corners lotteria|
At 3pm they gave us the bum’s rush, and we flowed into the street with the stream of tipsy Texans. Next stop was near the venue we were playing tonight, FOUR CORNERS BREWING. More baffling was that the liquor laws were different here than at Deep Ellum. Four Corners actually had a comfortable tasting room in the brewery and directly sold samplers & pints. I grabbed a flight of four impressive brews, the LOCAL BUZZ, BOSS LADY RUSTIC RED, plus the fantastic BLOCK PARTY PORTER and EL CHINGON IPA. Overall, I enjoyed 4C way more than Deep Ellum. The mellow vibe was more akin to what I’m used to in SoCal.
Time to head back to the hotel, pick up my bandmates, and get ready for tonight’s gig. Being the Texas gentlemen that they are, both Barfield and Thackaberry brought with them a healthy assortment of local flavor for ample sampling. We had a couple hours before the doors opened at the spot we were playing, so just enough time to kick off a Room 624 Tasting Party of our own. We opened eight different beers and split them between four of us, with Thackaberry barely sipping more than a drop since he volunteered to drive. Several offerings from REAL ALE, an astonishingly good SHINER RUBY REDBIRD, a SOUTHERN STAR PINE BELT ALE, an excellent Belgian style white ale WHITE RABBIT from INDEPENDENCE BREWING, and one of the weekend’s crown jewels, the BLAKKR collaboration Imperial Black Ale from 3 FLOYDS / SURLY / REAL ALE (many thanks Mr. Barfield!). Pleased, but not too soggy, we headed to the venue.
|Room 624 Tasting Party: Act One|
Speaking of soggy, our original venue, Diablo Ranch, had been flooded out a few days prior, due to a squall of massive thunderstorms. With the Ranch underwater, Fuentes scrambled & found the Vice Palace as a last minute replacement venue. This less-than-elegant “Palace” is a cavernous warehouse that could have easily fit 3,000 people. We weren’t expecting 3,000 people, but it would have to do. No idea what this place used to be, but the walls inside were covered with a dense, mysterious, furry looking substance that I was praying wasn’t asbestos. This location was so enormous that bands just drove their vehicles straight into the heart of the building to unload their gear. There was a small stage and sound system at one end of the room that was blasting noisy tunes while everyone prepared for the show. Strangely enough, it took me a minute to realize the house music was actually my old band Spazz, from an album I haven’t fully listened to in close to two decades. It was an oddly disconcerting, vaguely nightmarish & surreal feeling to hear material that I had written and recorded, of which I barely had a hint of recognition or recollection.
I walked a few blocks down for a quick, unsatisfactory dinner at Hofmann Hots, a hot dog joint with a million double-entendre Weiner slogans plastered on every square inch of the building. The dog I ate conjured a sense memory of 4th Grade hot lunches, and elementary school classmates puking on their desks. Well, at least my third meal in Dallas wasn’t pizza.
The show kicked off with a solid line up of Texas grind-hardcore-thrash-power-violence bands, each one more punishing than the one before them…. Mean & Ugly, Lacerations, Chest Pain, Mindless, Creator/Destroyer. Next was Weekend Nachos who had just arrived that morning from Chicago. They blazed through their set in a shower of miscellaneous smokebombs and fireworks. This crowd was small but savage, primitive. I saw chunks of the ceiling drifting down lazily through the haze, all the while praying that I was not catching lung cancer, or about to perish in an inferno lit by a wayward firecracker. Infest hit the stage and we cranked out a lukewarm set, not the worst, but not the best. Poor sound, more fireworks, sweat, mayhem, blood on the floor… so a good time had by all.
After some hand shaking, picture taking, and soggy pats on the back, the small but mighty crowd was gone, and we were in the parking lot alone, being bitten by unseen winged creatures. Wait, what’s the location of the after-show? Shit. Thankfully our room still contained a bounty of unsampled local brews, so we capped off the evening with Part 2 of the Room 624 Tasting Party, highlighted by the weekend’s finest brew: RAHR & SONS BOURBON BARREL AGED WINTER WARMER, a dark and dense, slightly sweet, thoroughly dominating Texas oil slick of a beer.
Sunday I awoke a much fresher daisy than the morning prior. After a stiff coffee and a scone, it was apparent we would need to check out soon, and there were still a decent amount of unopened, unique beers in the fridge. Too early? Hmmm, one of them WAS labeled as a “Breakfast Brew”. Well, if you insist.
|If you look very closely you can still see it|
Matt Domino and Crazy Legs Bob headed out to the Waffle House, enduring a barrage of “Awful House” jokes. Barfield offered to drive me and Denunzio around for a few hours before heading to the airport, so we hit the quintessential Dallas tourist spot: Dealey Plaza – The location of JFK’s assassination, an event rivaled only by Roswell as the grand poobah of all conspiracy theories. As much as I didn’t think it would affect me, it was eerily humbling to stand on a site so familiar, one I’ve seen thousands of times throughout my life via a grainy, Zapruder home movie. The book depository is still there. The grassy knoll is still there, crassly identified with a massive yellow “GRASSY KNOLL” banner. And there are two painted “X”s in the street, locations of the first shot and the second shot. Avoiding hucksters who were selling conspiracy newsletters or recruiting visitors for unnecessary tour packages, and watching families run into the middle of the street to mug for photos over each “X” was uncomfortable, but also typically American in its own way. The only thing missing was a corporate sponsor: “The JFK Assassination Site – Sponsored by Taco Bell and Monster Energy Drink”.
Sticking to this downtown neighborhood, we hit Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse for what turned out to be mediocre BBQ, highlighted only by the fact I got to try one of the local favorites recommended by several friends, the delicious PETICOLAS BREWING VELVET HAMMER, a smooth drinking, deep red, strong ale. We got to the airport early enough to relax and enjoy a couple more pre-boarding pints including the roasty, dark, malty SAINT ARNOLD BREWING SANTO black kolsch. Not sure why the airport bar insisted on showing endless CNN coverage of the recently downed Malaysia jetliner. Not the most prudent of viewing choices for a terminal full of passengers. Flying home, seated next to the one woman on the plane who would never stop talking even if you threatened her with a white-hot branding iron, I realized this was my first trip to the Lone Star State when I didn’t subject myself to Lone Star beer. Considering Lone Star is one of the worst beers in the country, and I had just sampled some of the best beers Texas has to offer, it was a fair trade-off. Vaya con dios, Tejas. Turns out y’all know what you’re doing with your brewing.
|Continuous plane crash coverage on the airport bar TV, right before I board a plane. Good choice.|
The beering continues…
Thursday 7/17 – New release tasting at Vendome and a couple at home:
1401 - BOULEVARD SAISON BRETT (2014) - A freshly manicured garden in a glass, no overwhelming pucker, tart but smooth.
1402 - STONE BREWING ENJOY BY 08.16.14 IPA - Flawless and fresh as always, a real man's IPA, definitely related to the cannabis family.
1403 - ROUGH DRAFT BREWING 2ND DRAFT AMERICAN MANHATTAN ALE - Supposed to be homage to the Manhattan cocktail, tastes like Brach's chocolate covered cherries to me, though not unpleasant.
1404 - BOULEVARD LOVE CHILD NO. 4 - The beautiful mutant offspring of all things wild, funky and tart. Good one.
1405 - BROUWERIJ DE MOLEN / ANCHORAGE COLLABORATION MUD & FUNK - Not at all what I expected, tastes nothing like an imperial stout, and everything like an acidic red wine.
1406 - HERMITAGE BREWING ALE OF THE IMP - I bought one of these about 4-5 years ago and it was horrific. A friend insisted I try it again. Not horrific at all. Seriously great DIPA. Thanks for not being terrible anymore, Hermitage. And thanks for insisting I give this brewery another try, Chris Wilder.
1407 - DE STRUISE BROUWERS PANNEPOT (2011) - Ridiculous how excellent this is, tart like a wine, well rounded and malty beeriness, this is incredible.
1408 - BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING BIG BEAR BLACK STOUT - Decent, I taste the hops more than anything, could be even inkier for my tastes.
|Here's another long-winded story, y'all...|
Friday 7/18 – LAX but mostly Dallas
1409 - HEINEKEN RIO DE JANEIRO CITY EDITION – What’s this about a ‘Shitty Edition’?
1410 - GOLDEN ROAD CARRY ON CITRUS ALE - Makes me happy to buy this @ LAX and carry it on the plane. You made me a very pleased man, Golden Road.
1411 - RAHR & SONS TEXAS RED - Decent way to start our weekend in Dallas, six pack from a gas station. Not bad, but things can only get better.
1412 - REAL ALE BREWING LOST GOLD IPA - Have I mentioned how much I love TX yet? Killer IPA! Hoppy but balanced by the grains, y'all.
1413 - (512) BREWING COMPANY PECAN PORTER – The shiznit. Highly recommended by Harley The Vendome Cicerone back home, but I didn’t expect to actually find it. An Austin brewery on tap at World Beer Co.
1414 - MARTIN HOUSE BREWING PRETZEL STOUT – At World Beer Co. Sweet, malty, interesting concept, but the taste is not distinctly pretzely as touted.
1415 – OMMEGANG BELGIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY IPA – Libertine Bar. The keg tapped out with Joe Denunzio’s glass, but I got a taste. Great Belgian style IPA, and the best hoppy beer I’ve had from Ommegang.
1416 - COMMUNITY BEER COMPANY ESB – Libertine Bar. Palatable but not memorable.
1417 - ROGNESS BREWING BEARDY GUARD – Libertine Bar. Is it weirder that there’s a Biere de Garde coming out of TX, or that the brewery is from a town in TX named Pflugerville?
1418 - ODELL BREWING MYRCENARY DOUBLE IPA – Blind Butcher bar, 1am outside in surprisingly perfect weather. Wonderfully skunkified double IPA.
1419 - BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY AGAVE WHEAT – Meh. Nothing to write home about, nor blog about. A pint to accompany 2am pizza in downtown Dallas.
Saturday 7/19 – Dallas, sans J.R. Ewing
1420 - DEEP ELLUM BREWING DOUBLE BROWN STOUT – Decent, more akin to an English style stout.
1421 - DEEP ELLUM BREWING DALLAS BLONDE – I picture an actual Dallas Blonde as big and voluptuous. This beer isn’t big and voluptuous. It’s mild and nondescript.
1422 - DEEP ELLUM BREWING DEEP ELLUM IPA – Excellent hoppy IPA, too bad they weren’t serving their Double IPA.
1423 - DEEP ELLUM BREWING PALE ALE – S’OK.
1424 - FOUR CORNERS BREWING LOCAL BUZZ – Delicious rye golden ale brewed with locally sourced honey, gotta love that.
1425 - FOUR CORNERS BREWING EL CHINGON IPA – A combo of hops and distinct malt, one of my faves.
1426 - FOUR CORNERS BREWING BLOCK PARTY PORTER – The best of the four Four Corners I tried, roasty and chocolatey and smoooove on the finish. Excellent.
1427 - FOUR CORNERS BREWING BOSS LADY RUSTIC RED – Mildly hoppy red, not mind-blowing, but quaffable.
1428 - INFAMOUS BREWING HIJACK CREAM ALE – Not bad, but I never expect greatness from cream ales.
1429 - INDEPENDENCE BREWING WHITE RABBIT – This was a standout of all the Austin cans & bottles from Jack Barfield, a Belgian style white ale, so damn good.
1430 - REAL ALE BREWING HANS' PILS – OK.
1431 - REAL ALE BREWING BREWER'S CUT NO. 015 SIGNATURE HOP PALE ALE – Real hop bite minus the bitterness, tastes a bit like corn on the cob.
1432 - REAL ALE / 3 FLOYDS / SURLY COLLABORATION BLAKKR IMPERIAL BLACK ALE – A worship-worthy collaboration of North meets South, a superior imperial black ale with heavy hops and chocolate goin’ on, plus at 9.99% ABV it’ll knock you on your ass if you’re not a professional.
1433 - REAL ALE BREWING BREWHOUSE BROWN ALE – Decent, malty, and sessionable.
1434 - SHINER RUBY REDBIRD – I have an aversion to Shiner Bock, but I couldn’t believe I didn’t hate this. It’s actually quite good, killer for a hot TX day. Not overly sweet. Grapefruit without the heavy acidity, and a sharp ginger bite. Good one.
1435 - SOUTHERN STAR BREWING PINE BELT PALE – Nice coppery, easy drinking pale with some bite.
1436 - AUSTIN BEERWORKS HEAVY MACHINERY DOUBLE IPA – So much writing on the can, it’s of Biblical proportions. Awesome crunchy IPA.
1437 - SAINT ARNOLD BREWING 20TH ANNIVERSARY ALE – Tastes like it’s a hybrid of barleywine meets a Belgian quad. It’s 2am and this is delicious.
1438 - REAL ALE BREWING DEVIL'S BACKBONE TRIPEL – Belgian style, golden and satisfying.
1439 - RAHR & SONS BOURBON BARREL AGED WINTER WARMER - A dark and dense, slightly sweet, thoroughly dominating Texas oil slick. Best beer of the trip. I’m forever grateful to Chris Thackaberry for hooking us up with this bottle.
1440 - REAL ALE BREWING FULL MOON PALE RYE ALE – Good one, with that sharp & distinct rye bite.
1441 - REAL ALE BREWING FIREMAN'S #4 BLONDE ALE – Described in my notebook as “whatever”.
Sunday 7/20 – Dallas tastings, and back to LA
1442 - MARTIN HOUSE BREWING DAY BREAK 4 GRAIN BREAKFAST BREW – Did you say “breakfast”? OK, if you insist. Ale brewed with honey and milk sugar. Sweet and oatmealy. Interesting for a taste, but I wouldn’t want the full can.
1443 - MARTIN HOUSE BREWING RUBBERNECK RED – Tasty freakin’ red with some good full-bodied hops going on. Apparently someone from The Toadies is involved in this brewery. I couldn’t name a Toadies song, but I guess that gives ‘em some sort of street cred?
1444 - GRAPEVINE CRAFT BREWERY LAKEFIRE RYE PALE ALE – So-so. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have that rye bite I was expecting.
1445 - REAL ALE BREWING WHITE – Wheaty and tasty. A good Nooner beer.
1446 - PETICOLAS BREWING VELVET HAMMER – Both smooth and powerful as the name implies. Is it an imperial red? All I know is this would be one of my “go to” beers if I lived here.
1447 - SAINT ARNOLD BREWING SANTO – I got lucky to find a damn good airport beer. A black kolsch with dark malt depth. Refreshing.
1448 - HARPOON BREWERY IPA – Very tasty hop attack with a back end malt finish, well-balanced and comforting.
1449 - KARBACH BREWING HOPADILLO IPA – Making my Houston layover more tolerable, a nice, dense, hoppy beast.
1450 - SAINT ARNOLD BREWING SUMMER PILS – Good although not distinct.
1451 - CORONA EXTRA – I expected it to be pointless, and it is. But at least there’s finally an airline beer I haven’t had, in order to break the Bud & Heineken monotony.
Monday 7/21 - Home
1452 - COORS BREWING BATCH 19 PRE-PROHIBITION STYLE LAGER – I was expecting the worst, but this was surprisingly drinkable. It’s not too far removed from “old man beer”, but goes fine as an inoffensive accompaniment to spicy Mexican food. Thanks for the bottle, Kelly Reese.
1453 - MENDOCINO BREWING BLACK IPA SEASONAL – I’m a fan of this style, although this one wasn’t distinct.
1454 - BOULDER BEER COMPANY MOJO INDIA PALE ALE - Decent, but also semi-soapy. I wouldn’t drink it again by choice.
Tuesday 7/22 – Home, digging into the long-awaited Beer Camp collection
1455 - HENNINGER PREMIUM LAGER - My wife found this at the 99 Cent Store. Surprisingly it's pretty decent, your average lager but better than Bud.
1456 - SIERRA NEVADA / 3 FLOYDS COLLABORATION BEER CAMP CHICO KING PALE ALE - Very tasty hoppy brau, but tastes very much in line with trademark Sierra Nevada hopped beers. Good, but I expected an imperial over-the-top beer with FFF involved.
1457 - SIERRA NEVADA / OSKAR BLUES COLLABORATION BEER CAMP CANFUSION RYE BOCK - Heavy rye and citrus bite, smooooth finish, tasty and somewhat unique collab.
1458 - SIERRA NEVADA / NINKASI COLLABORATION BEER CAMP DOUBLE LATTE - My fave of the collabs so far, fantastic coffee milk stout, creamy, roasty, and damn near perfect.
1459 - SIERRA NEVADA / NEW GLARUS COLLABORATION BEER CAMP THERE AND BACK ENGLISH STYLE BITTER - Very tasty, hoppy English bitter with mild roasty and citrusy bits. A fine collab.
Wednesday 7/23 – Home, exploring more Beer Camp
1460 - SIERRA NEVADA / CIGAR CITY COLLABORATION BEER CAMP YONDER BOCK - Didn't get a lot of the fruitiness, but very dense & bready. Still a good collaboration.
1461 - SIERRA NEVADA / FIRESTONE WALKER COLLABORATION BEER CAMP TORPEDO PILSNER - Pretty mild, hoppy pils collab. Actually, my first similar choice would be the Firestone Walker Pivo Pils.
1462 - SIERRA NEVADA / BELL'S COLLABORATION BEER CAMP MAILLARD'S ODYSSEY - Deep, rich, dense dark ale. I wasn't expecting greatness from a Bell's collab, but this is one of my faves from the pack.